We can lament the lack of point and click adventures on console till the cows come home, but they do make it eventually, and we’re lucky there’s been a couple in fairly quick succession too. Anna’s Quest has taken a bit longer to get here than the last game in the genre we reviewed, and is definitely at the other end of the taste spectrum! A twist on the classic fairy tales from the Brothers Grimm, Krams Design takes us on a trip through a magical land seen through the eyes of a little girl trying to find a cure for her ill Grandpa. All she has to do to succeed is defeat an evil witch whilst not getting mauled, eaten, cooked alive or having her soul cast into Hell for eternity. Pretty simple task then, eh?
Anna enjoys her simple farm life with her Grandpa; it’s peaceful and stress free. One day, her Grandpa falls ill and she has to head off into the dark woods for help. That’s not going to be coming any time soon as she’s kidnapped by the evil witch Winfriede and imprisoned for experimentation in her tower. With no idea of why she’s there, why the witch wants her to sit with her head in a machine, or how in the world a teddy bear can talk, Anna can only start figuring out how to escape. At least she’s got an edge there – she’s smart, resourceful, and handily telepathic. With some quick thinking she manages to free herself and the bear, who turns out to be called Ben, and they hightail it to the nearest town for aid. Anna’s quest only gets more tricky from here as for some reason she’s made an enemy of the Royal Family, and the entire guard are out to get her. Throw in more witches, nefarious characters, henchmen, wizards and dragons and there’s a story for the ages being written here… but can Anna save her Grandpa and free the kingdom of Wiederhorn in the process?
With Anna’s Quest being a point and click adventure there’s really not much I can say that adds any depth to the description – you point at things and click to interact. It’s especially easy on a PC, though not so simple on a console with controller inputs. Krams Design have attempted to do something a bit different for this port with removing the pointer entirely, making it a click only adventure. In essence Anna herself is the pointer, and as you move her around the screen hotspots of interaction are highlighted that you’re able to cycle through with a nudge of the right analogue stick. It’s actually a nice way of doing it and saves having to drag a cursor about with the gamepad. It has a couple of drawbacks though when it comes to precision. Because you cannot simply select the item you want to interact with by dropping a marker over it, you need to put Anna in the right place for the hotspot to appear. Most objects are highlighted easily, some need Anna to be in approximately the right location, and the odd infuriating few need micron specific positioning for you to nab them.
Dealing with objects is pretty straightforward – it’s one button to examine, one to grab, and one to combine with another item Anna’s holding. It’s the same in the inventory as well, and there are quick select options for anything she’s carrying which cuts out dipping in and out of the full list (not that there’s too much to scroll through, or even any loading). Standard fare for the genre so far, yet Anna’s Quest has the addition of her special power. A number of items can be manipulated through telekinesis which is mapped to a trigger button. Typically used for getting to things that are out of reach, it adds a layer of complexity that does a surprising amount to complement the familiar gameplay. Being really critical it’s possible to view it as just another button to press, but in this type of puzzle game it’s another element to remember and piece into the solutions. In short it means the thinking time is elevated as now the answers don’t just lie in matching descriptions and bending logic around corners, there’s a physical manipulation of the objects as well.
As the genre has matured, so have the puzzles, and the really obtuse ones found back in the pixelated days aren’t going to bother players here. That doesn’t mean they’re a walk in the park though. With 6 chapters set in distinct areas there’s a singular goal to achieve for getting to the next part, and each has a layer of puzzles to solve to get to the end. Some are independent of each other, others are nested so that they have to solved incrementally, and there’s a decent variety as well. From simple item combinations to cyphers to spatial manipulation, Anna’s Quest will run through all of them in its 8 hour or so runtime. All are logical in their own right and plenty will make you feel like kicking yourself for taking so long to come up with the solution. What’s nicely done as well is that you usually have a mental sketch of what needs to be done after searching an area before even getting into the conversations with the denizens of the land, and this helps with the feeling of purpose and direction. Of course, there’s a fair amount of trial and error, yet it won’t let you go wrong and whilst there’s no help system, Anna herself is verbose with her responses.
In fact, the depth of the dialogue is one of the more impressive parts of the game. There’s a lot of unique interaction responses, and some are quite lengthy, plus conversations play out that really get into certain parts of the lore of the realm. It’s a double edged sword as despite the great voice work, you sometimes want it to just skip ahead so you can crack on. Therein lies trouble however, as ignoring certain parts can mean having no clue what needs to happen next. Best advice? Don’t play if there’s no concentration level handy! The acting supports the lovely visuals too, and whilst there are limited environments, each is brilliantly realised with its hand drawn style. It manages to be colourful and drab at the same time to match the tone of the game, and is just detailed enough to provide the right ambience without being too cluttered to play in. It’s all very well optimised with little loading and no pausing or stopping when moving between sections. The only issues encountered were some strange controller responses if a cutscene moved Anna to a new area, or the already mentioned “way too precise” contact points.
Anna’s Quest is aping the works of the Brothers Grimm which are dark and scary stories at their heart. Our titular character might be innocent and sees the world mostly in black or white, but the situations she finds herself in, or escaping, or saving others from, are presented as anything but. There’s a wry humour at its heart though and a passion for the fairy tales it’s based on, as well as a tonne of references to gaming pop culture. As a genre fan this is a great example of execution with style and depth, and it maintains a strong sense of folklore character that runs throughout everything, giving it the right blend of the familiar, the strange and the mystical. It’s definitely one to explore in detail from start to finish.
A PS4 review copy of Anna’s Quest was provided by Daedalic Entertainment’s PR team, and the game is available now on PC, Switch, Xbox One and PS4 for around £16, depending on platform.